China's first Private University inaugurated in Zhejiang Province's Hangzhou city


China's first private research university has been officially inaugurated in Zhejiang Province's Hangzhou city, official media here reported on Monday. The university which was inaugurated on Saturday would push forward national higher-education reform, state-run Global Times quoted experts as saying.

China's educational institutions are mostly state-owned and governed by ministry of education. Autonomy for top educational institutions has been a long-standing demand of the Chinese academic community. Five Nobel laureates, including physicist Chen-Ning Yang and more than 70 representatives of domestic and overseas universities attended the founding ceremony of Westlake University in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province.

Westlake has 68 research group leaders, 139 students under joint supervision at the top Chinese institutes of Fudan University and Zhejiang University and 159 key researchers, the report said. Schools of natural science, engineering and life sciences are located on a campus that can hold 120 independent laboratories and 2,000 research fellows, it said. Another campus to be completed in 2021 will accommodate 300 labs and 3,000 doctoral students, said the website.

The university aims to be an explorer of China's higher-education reform and a world leader in frontier technology, Westlake University President Shi Yigong, a biologist and former vice president of Tsinghua University in Beijing, said at the ceremony.

"We expect that the university will be a new research university that attracts world attention in 10 or 20 years, and advances human progress and world civilisation in its own way," Shi said. In April Qian Yingyi, school board chairman, suggested the university president be granted maximum freedom in management, and teachers be given "maximum freedom in teaching."

Zhu Qingshi, former president of Shenzhen's South University of Science and Technology of China, told the Global Times that removing bureaucratic obstacles is difficult in practice and he hoped Westlake could succeed. Donations to the university lack stability and continuity, and "higher-education will be difficult without national expenditure and support," Zhu said.

Westlake University's financial resources are raised by the non-public Westlake Education Foundation from high-profile business executives including Tencent Holdings Chairman Pony Ma Huateng and Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin, according to the university. Its fundraising model was borrowed from universities such as Harvard and Yale, which are partly supported by social funds and by alumni, Shanghai-based news site reported.

Reduced bureaucracy will aid research, said Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Education Sciences in Beijing, "but how much it can achieve depends on local government. Donations account for less than two percent of university funds in China while at top US universities they form over 30 percent", Chu said. Unclear ownership and unpublished financial reports of Chinese universities discouraged donors, he said.

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